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Kick-start your 2015: 15 ways to keep the January blues at bay
January 7th 2015
Supercharge your New Year with these health, fitness, sleep and diet tips from the experts
Poor, partied out and a little plumper round the edges: our post-holiday comedown is starting to weigh us down.
So what can we do to turn the tables and keep the January blues at bay? We asked a dream team of Get The Gloss Experts for their recommendations on how we can boost both body and mind to ensure we put our best foot forward in the New Year.
From the best ways to reset our mindsets to grocery shop mood-boosters, advice on how to sleep better to nutrition and weight loss tips that don’t leave a sour taste in our mouths, these tips could prove to be the perfect way to kick start our 2015s and create a range of new healthy habits to carry on through January and beyond.
1. Get a health check
“A health check or health MOT is a great way to start the New Year,” advises GP Dr Anita Sturnham. “Not only does it help to motivate you to start the year off on a good foot, but it is also a good opportunity to ensure that your body is healthy. Most health checks include assessments such as body composition measurements to assess your body fat, muscle and hydration levels, blood tests to check your immune system, liver, kidneys, thyroid gland and heart disease and diabetes and blood pressure and lung assessments to ensure that your vital organs are healthy.
“It is also a good opportunity to review diet and lifestyle factors with a doctor and ensure that you have advice about how to keep yourself happy and healthy in the year ahead.”
2. Shun the drastic diet
“Pack away the scales. Don't be tempted to go on a restrictive diet in January,” warns nutritional therapist Henrietta Norton. “Rather than focusing on reducing quantity during January, put your thoughts to improving the quality of your food. January is a month of restoration after the festivities of Christmas. Look to build in warming stews and broths that can be light on digestion and full of nourishment.”
3. Conscious breathing
“I always start my day with a short series of deep breathing exercises or 10 minutes of yoga,” says personal trainer and Bodyism Founder James Duigan. “This gets my body energised for the day ahead. Try setting a few minutes each day aside for breathing exercises. Not just any old breathing though. Make sure you take deep breathes – breathing from the lower abdominals right up to the top of your chest. If you are struggling to get the breathing right, imagine you have a balloon in your belly which you need to inflate and deflate. Finally, remember to just breathe from the stomach - the chest mustn't move.”
4. Sleep sense
“If you have poor sleep, you may be tired in the daytime, have reduced concentration, become irritable, or just not function well. If the insomnia continues, it can increase the risk of developing conditions including diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and strokes,” cautions Dr Sturnham.
“Boost your sleep by cutting out the caffeine - do not have any food, medicines or drinks that contain caffeine or other stimulants for six hours before bedtime. Some people have found that cutting out caffeine completely helps.
“Banish the cigarettes: do not smoke within six hours before bedtime. Bin the booze: ideally try not to drink alcohol within six hours before bedtime. No late night feasts: do not have a heavy meal just before bedtime, (although a light snack may be helpful). Exercise helps but not late at night: do not do any strenuous exercise within four hours of bedtime. This may increase the amount of adrenaline your body produces, making it difficult to get to sleep.”
Tempted to get a quick cat nap in? Try to resist the urge. “No matter how tired you are, do not sleep or nap during the day,” advises Dr Sturnham. It could throw your sleep schedule off-kilter.
5. Stick with a routine
“Control your body’s sleep rhythm - try to get into a daily routine to establish a sleep pattern,” recommends Dr Sturnham. “Going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning, even at weekends can help. The body becomes used to rhythms or routines. If you keep to a pattern, you are more likely to sleep well.”
6. Give your gut a helping hand
“Include plenty of prebiotic foods to help stimulate beneficial bacteria in the gut as a happy gut creates a more balanced and happier state of mind,” recommends nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik. “These include fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, miso, onions, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes and garlic.”
7. Boost mind with magnesium
“Deficiency in magnesium can reduce serotonin levels and recent research has shown that supplementing with magnesium can bring about improvements in treatment-resistant depression and anxiety,” says Henrietta Norton. “Build in magnesium-rich delights such as oats, millet, pumpkin seeds, almonds and chard.
“As 70% of western women are estimated to be deficient in magnesium, supplementing your diet, preferably in a Food-State form such as Wild Nutrition’s Magnesium, £16.50 can be very supportive.”
8. The power of exercise
“Embrace exercise as part of your life and who you are,” says James Duigan. “The way you think has such a profound effect on your body so be kind to yourself - really learn to love and accept yourself. Believe me, it is the fastest and most effective way of looking and feeling amazing - it really does empower you to make better choices for yourself.”
9. Caffeine substitutes
Give your trusty afternoon latte a New Year switch up with a healthier alternative to help curb your afternoon lull. “Swap your obvious stimulants such as caffeine and chocolate out for more natural alternatives such as raw cacao, green tea or cocoa nibs,” recommends Eve Kalinik.
10. Omega-3 your diet
“Scientific studies have shown foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to be beneficial for our hearts but it turns out that what's good for our hearts is also good for our brains too. Boost your mood and your concentration with omega-3 rich foods that will feed your brain cells and also help to keep your nerve fibres healthy,” recommends Dr Sturnham.
“The foods highest in omega-3 fatty acids include seafood, especially tuna, salmon and mackerel as well as walnuts, canola oil, and flax seed. Because sugary foods flood the body with glucose and cause hyperactivity in the process, these moderate the release of glucose and provide a more balanced energy supply.”
11. Add colour to your meals
“Colour can change our mood, whether it’s in our interiors, clothes or our food. Warming reds, oranges and yellows for example can help us to feel brighter and lifted. Use spices such as ginger and turmeric to add warmth and colour to your food,” recommends Henrietta Norton.
12. Boost your B and A vitamins
“Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is an essential nutrient for the central nervous system,” says Dr Sturnham. “Vitamin B6 is needed in the body for the production of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include irritability, short attention spans and short term memory loss. Vitamin B6 is naturally found in brown rice, legumes, whole grains and meats.
“Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin is another brain-boosting nutrient. Supplementation with the vitamin helps improve focus and mood. Along with Vitamin B6 and B9, cyanocobalamin is needed in the body for synthesising and regulating neurotransmitters,” explains Dr Sturnham.
“Vitamin B3 or niacin is important for general metabolism and to improve the absorption of essential minerals and vitamins from the gastrointestinal tract. Vitamin A is an important nutrient for healthy vision and nerve function. It binds to the rods and cones of the eyes where it is responsible for capturing light and triggering signals in the optic nerve.”
Want to incorporate more of these vitamins into your diet? “Eat plenty of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and green leafy vegetables,” recommends Dr Sturnham.
13. Get your vitamin D fix
“Vitamin D acts on the areas of your brain that are linked to depression and low levels of this fat-soluble vitamin have been linked with symptoms of seasonally affected depression,” warns Henrietta Norton.
“Foods such as eggs, butter and mushrooms exposed to sunlight are a really good source. Sun exposure is low during the winter months and if like me, you're not jetting off to Caribbean shores, supplementing with a Vitamin D3 supplement between the months of October and April can be a great support. Look for Vitamin D supplements that provide the biologically active form (1,25 (OH) vitamin D) found in food and Food-State supplements rather than commonly used storage form (25 (OH) vitamin D).”
14. Amp up your tocopherols (vitamin E)
“Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant which is essential for mopping up harmful free radicals in the body,” explains Dr Sturnham. “In this way, they are also protective and can prevent structural damages in the neurons of the central nervous system.”
Boost your vitamin E artilleries with a few shop to shelf trolley essentials. “Sunflower seeds, avocados and spinach, kale, Collard greens and nuts – almonds and some other nut varieties contain vitamin E and more great nutrients. Fruits like papaya and kiwi are sources of vitamin E. Vitamin E is also important for eye health. Its deficiency can lead to retinopathy, an eye disease.”
15. Treat exercise like a meeting
“Not only is exercise great for keeping our hearts strong and our weight healthy but we also know that when we exercise we produce increased levels of endorphins and serotonin (happy hormones) which improve our mood and energy levels,” explains Dr Sturnham.
“Aim to do some form of exercise 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes at a time. This doesn't have to mean a work out in a gym either. A brisk walk, gardening, dancing, getting off the bus or tube stop early and walking the rest of the way all count as exercise.”